It is a word many victims of abuse don’t understand, experientially. At times the word is merely a mockery of that thing we crave and cannot attain. Our spirits scream for it, our minds are desperate for it, and our bodies ache from their wanting… But peace evades us at every turn.
Unfortunately I cannot simplify it into one quick anecdote for the turmoil, fear, pain and anguish.
It is a rise and fall… A learning to hold onto it a little longer before it slips away… A persistent leaning into a sheltered place… Staying intentionally in the Rock that hides us in the storm and covers us… Learning to abandon the need to prove a thing at all… Abandoning the desire for approval and perfection…
And resting in the One who defines us… Loves us… Accepts us…
Ah… sweet Love…
Because there is no fear in Love. And where there is no fear, there is peace.
Peace… that inner quiet… surrounded by a world with chaos all around…
“It’s just your imagination.” … “It’s demonic activity.” … “You’re just making it up.” … These are some of the responses you will potentially hear from religious people, if you have been visited by angels in a place of trauma and pain, and have shared it.
Not all of us have the experience of angels showing up in ways that we see, experience or recognize them cognitively. But some do. Since July of this year I have heard personal testimonies from several young women–women who did not know each other–who have had angelic encounters. One, when she shared it with someone from church, was told it was demonic activity. The other, when she shared it, received affirmation.
The comfort angels have brought to victims of abuse, in their times of struggle and pain, is a beautiful thing. (I’ve started to pray for angels to visit people in their sleep, in their waking hours and in any time of struggle.) To call it demonic is tragic at best. The Bible tells plenty of stories of angels visiting people, and Jesus speaks to angelic presence particularly in the area of childhood abuse. For someone religious to try and rob a child (or young man/woman) of the beauty of this encounter makes no sense, and has no biblical grounds.
My encouragement to you, if you have been visited by an angel, is to thank God for His comfort, and for creating ‘ministering spirits’ as Hebrews 1 calls them, to watch over you. And Matthew 18:10 says that the angels of a wounded child ‘do always behold the face of God’. This could mean a few different things, and I do not pretend to fully grasp it. But I know that God is light, and all that is in His presences is made light, so angels who are always in God’s presence and face, will bring light into darkness, hope into hopelessness and the love and comfort of God to wounded children.
Hold onto the God of that comfort, and never let anyone take the memory of that encounter from you. And may angels carry you and minister to your spirit as you heal and find hope.
The merchants sold things in the temple courtyard. There was no hidden crime, that we know of; they were right out there in the open, and obviously they thought what they did was fine. Even so, Jesus threw over tables, grabbed a whip and chased them out. The Pharisees made a host of man-made rules and imposed them on people as part of redemption, and Jesus called them hypocrites, a brood of vipers. He even declared them to be sons of hell. “You travel land and sea,” Jesus said, “to make one convert. And having done so, you make them twice the sons of hell that you are.”
Ouch. Definitely His outdoor voice, wouldn’t you say? And this isn’t the Old Testament God of wrath, talking here. This is Jesus, the gentle-hearted healer, speaking to those who defile the temple with ignored sin, those who defile God’s name by misrepresenting Him through external things, those who defile the temple by taking what is not theirs. That’s what thieves do; they take what is not theirs.
What would Jesus do with sexual abuse hidden in the ‘temple’? He would react. I know for certain He would not turn a blind eye, or shrug it off. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ response to sin, and the response of sinners to Jesus. When Zacchaeus encountered the Christ, he gave back 10-fold what he had taken. The impact Jesus had on him was not a, “thank God for grace so I can move on from my little mistake”… No, when Zac met Jesus, he was confronted by the wickedness of his own heart, and this stirred repentance in him. Repentance that included paying the consequences for his crime and acknowledging he had done great damage.
I am also confident that Jesus would not say the offender (or their family) is being persecuted for their faith, if such sin came to light and the world around was angry and called them hypocrites. My confidence comes from the Word of God, which clearly states that if our suffering is the result of wrongdoing (sin, criminal activity, gossip) then we are not to rejoice in it, and it is not being ‘reproached for the name of Christ’. Jesus would most definitely stand by the Word. Yes, he would extend forgiveness to the repentant, which I also promote… with boundaries to protect victims, and following the laws of the land. (Romans 13:1-5) I certainly can’t imagine He would run around saying, “This man/woman suffered dreadfully for my name’s sake”, when there is sin or criminal activity linked to the attacks. Fallout in the world around, as a result of those things is called consequences, and shames the name of Christ–even when/if it has been dealt with through repentance.
When I hear the cry ‘persecution’ associated with some of the recent ‘Christian sex scandals’, whether Gothard, Provencher, Duggars, or any other ‘Christian’ suffering ‘persecution’ after committing a crime, it makes me feel physically ill. It isn’t persecution. Does the world react differently to Christians being exposed in sex scandals or crimes? Yes. And they should. They have expectations of us, behaviours they hope for, and when our sins look just like their sins, they are bewildered, angry and call it hypocrisy. Sometimes it is hypocrisy, and sometimes it isn’t. But to the world it all looks the same.
Persecution, in terms of Christianity, is when someone suffers for the sake, cause or name of Christ. If I am bullied for dressing in a particular cultural fashion, it is not ‘suffering for the sake of Christ’. Christ didn’t ask me to dress a certain way. My church may have, or my parents, and it is perfectly fine for me to dress that ‘certain way’ associated with culture or personal preference, but that attire has nothing to do with the name of Christ, because my attire doesn’t represent Christ. My life, however, does represent Him or misrepresent Him, as the case may be. But, if I declare boldly the love and name and teachings of Christ, and I suffer for His name’s sake, that is Christian persecution.
So, as a Christian, if I commit(ted) a crime and it comes to light and collides with what I teach, and I am attacked, bashed or shamed because the crime came to light, it is not persecution. It is a consequence of sin. It is one of the reasons I chose early on to disclose my own past–the things I did and those done to me–so that the name of Christ would never be shamed because some hidden thing in my own life comes to light, and my past would not be used against me. And as part of my healing I shared every sin ever committed against me, and every sin I could remember ever committing, and have written about many of them. I desperately wanted to be free, and my greatest fear back then was that people would discover who I once was and use it to destroy me, or it would give Satan a foothold. (And now it’s out there in book form. Who would have thought it?!) But I will say this, if ever I get attacked by the world for what I disclose in my memoir, it will not be persecution. If I get attacked for presenting Christ and my faith in Him, that will be persecution.
That said, there is forgiveness for every sin and Jesus is more than enough, for my sins, for your sins and even the sins of celebrities. All sins are equal in needing grace, but all are not equal in consequence to us or others. We say sin doesn’t have ‘grades’, and then hold up homosexuality as ‘a sin unto death’ while brushing molestation under the proverbial rug. It would seem that Jesus might disagree with our grading system. There is only one sin for which He declares it would be better for the offender to be dead than to face the consequences, and it is the very one I see hidden most often in churches; sinning against a child or causing a child to sin. (And I deal with the fallout of ‘causing a child to sin’, and think often of this verse.) May God have mercy on our warped grading system, and open our blinded eyes to the impact of silence.
Children who survived abuse have long been overlooked, their pain gone unacknowledged. Let alone the devastating aftermath of sexual abuse. Many are later disciplined by their churches for struggles that are the direct result of being sinned against. All of this must change if the church–the Body of Christ–is ever to have a voice of hope or authority in the world. In Amos 5 God says He will turn away from every form of worship, if we don’t first love justice and righteousness. And there is no justice in turning a blind eye to victimization, while trying quickly to cover up the crimes through ‘forgiveness’. And there is no righteousness in that pretense. We, the church, have so much more to offer…
Victims need compassion–not pity; understanding, not ‘blaming’; and time and space to heal, not a mad dash to forgiveness and silence…. for the sake of image or any other wicked motivation. They need affirmation; to know they are not insane, even when they feel it. They need encouragement; to know they can make it. They need a listening ear, without judgement.
Victims need a church that does not overlook their trauma, but invites the Jesus who whispers to children in the night; “I am here. You will never be alone”.
I will share this interview with Boz Tchividjian, on the last of the ‘Forgotten Children’ posts, because it is worth watching. Boz is a man of great wisdom on the topic of sexual abuse. He is a Christian and a former prosecuting lawyer in child abuse cases, who speaks with insight, compassion and offers balance. If ever you find yourself wondering if something is ‘sexual abuse’ or ‘normal curiosity’, have a listen.
Coming up… A few thoughts on the Duggar daughter’s interview.
“I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”
~ GOD ~
(Part 2: The Forgotten Children)
…First a little story that happened in 2015:
Had I not been there, face to face with her, and had I only heard it on GodVine or whatever other social media forum out there, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have concluded someone coerced her, or framed the questions just right. But when it played out in front of me, I had no choice but to believe. I tell the following story with permission from ‘mommy’.
This year I’ve traveled to numerous times to various states in USA, to offer support in difficult situations. Being a Canadian, I go solely to offer a listening ear and spiritual encouragement. I do not tell people what they ought to do, beyond encouraging them to educate themselves with the law, and fight for their children’s best interest and healing, and to get them support, help or therapy they need. Always.
It was on one such trip that I found myself sitting with a little girl…. yet again. Her blonde, fly-away hair caught in her ice cream cone, and she licked it clean, giggling. Her blue eyes sparked with mischief… until that one topic came up…
I asked if we could talk about what had happened, and explained that mommy had told me everything. Immediately, it was as if someone had turned out the light and drawn the blinds in her beautiful little eyes. With great intensity she told me that mommy had explained we would talk about it, and it was okay. Still, I could see the shame.
“What do you feel when we talk about it?” I asked.
She shrugged, then said, “Bad. Like it was my fault and I ruined his life.” My heart filled with sudden deep pain, on her behalf, and immediately I assured her it was not her fault. I told a little story, using a practical example, of a grown up wrecking some precious toy, and asked if it would be her fault. “No!” she giggled, in that ‘don’t-be-so-silly’ way, and shook her head. The sparkle returned.
“Then, can it really be your fault when an adult hurts you?”
She shook her head, and smiled. “So it’s not really my fault at all, is it?”
“No, sweetie, it isn’t,” I said. Relief visibly washed over her. We talked about many things, and repeatedly her deep thoughts amazed me. And then I asked about fear. I remember debilitating fear surging through my body, so that I could hardly breathe, especially at night, and how there was no one to talk to about it. “Are you ever afraid?” I asked.
“Not very often, any more,” she said, “but sometimes I am.”
“What do you do when you’re afraid?” I asked.
“I pray and talk to Jesus,” she said. I nodded, contemplating where to take the conversation. I asked what she says to Jesus. “I just tell Him I’m scared, and ask Him to help me,” she answered.
“Who taught you to pray when you’re afraid?
She looked thoughtful. “No one. I just do it.” She went on to tell me how the first time she lay in the dark, terrified, she began to ‘talk to Jesus’.
“Then what happened?” I expected her to call her parents into her room to hold and comfort her. Because they would. They’re like that.
“When I prayed, I felt big arms wrap around me and hold me, and then I fell asleep,” she answered matter-of-factly, as though it should have been what I expected. Whatever emotions I felt in that moment, I pushed them down. I was here to support her, and tears were out of place. So I smiled and told her how beautiful that is, and how it makes me so happy.
“I told my little brother to try it when he was scared. I said, ‘you can just pray, and these big arms will come and hold you’, but he said it didn’t work for him.”
“Have you told mommy and daddy about this?” I asked. She furrowed her brows, thoughtfully, and then shook her head, adding that she never thought about it. “Do you think we can tell them later?” I asked. “I think it would make their hearts happy.” And that is just what she did when we returned. There were tears and relief, at knowing so that Someone had been with their daughter so intimately all along.
The words of Jesus, “…their angels do always behold the face of my Fatherwhich is in heaven…” replayed in my mind, over and over. She won’t have an easy road; it never is for victims of molestation, but she will never be alone.
God has an amazing plan for this little girl, as He does for all of us. Being molested will bring unnecessary struggle and pain into that journey, but I know this; God will redeem it. He will turn her into a dynamic young woman whose faith will be a testimony to God’s faithfulness in spite of tragedy.
I do not thank God for what happened to her. I do not downplay the wickedness because of God’s promised redemption. I am heartbroken that children continue to suffer. It should never have happened. But I will never stop believing that God will raise us up, as victims, to be the strongest voice for healing in our land, on this topic.
I will share this interview with Boz Tchividjian, on each of these ‘Forgotten Children’ posts, because it is worth watching. Boz is a man of great wisdom on the topic of sexual abuse. He is a Christian and a former prosecuting lawyer in child abuse cases, who speaks with insight, compassion and offers balance. If ever you find yourself wondering if something is ‘sexual abuse’ or ‘normal curiosity’, have a listen.
Psalms 85:10-11 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The past few days taught me some interesting things…
Firstly, I learned that it is wise to speak with gentleness, always. You never know when words will travel further than you imagined. Secondly, sometimes people–Christian and non-Christian–demand we either blindly support, or blatantly attack/reject people in situations like the Duggar family. (I blatantly reject/condemn molestation/crime, and I believe abusers should pay the consequences; from church and law.)
Thirdly, there are angry people–and God only knows what each one is angry about; no doubt they have painful stories–who will attack, very personally, anyone they see as out of line. They see what looks, to them, like a punching bag, and they swing. (Here I refer to both sides) The thing about anger, though, is that it is always a cover for a deeper emotion. (Helplessness, hopelessness, pain, rejection, betrayal, grief or any one of a host of other things.) To them I say, if swinging at me makes you feel better, have at it. Hopefully, with time the anger layer will strip away enough for you to begin to feel the deeper emotion and heal. My commitment is to try never to stoop to attacking you as a person, or your faith, identity or other tender struggles.
Fourthly, I learned (again) that I must be true to my heart before God. No matter what. I wrote my first blog from my heart, and made some statements based on faulty information, and the side of those who have their stones safely tucked in their pockets applauded and praised me. I was unwittingly dancing to their drums. The other side was a bit less happy with me. Most were not rude, but certainly they were riled up. And one was downright obnoxious. I’ve seen it enough, that it didn’t get under my skin; there’s usually some deep pain and personal bitterness, needing love and compassion. I heard the accusations and attacks, and tried to weed out the legitimate from the poison, and remain true to my heart before God, and acknowledge that I had some details wrong.
I posted the second blog to correct the glaring misinformation that influenced my statement about them ‘having done all they could do’. It seemed to me that making this correction was the right and Christian thing to do, because I was wrong; plain and simple. I want the public to trust that my first commitment is to the truth, as much as one can find truth in anything the media has touched. That means I need to be honest enough to say, “I was wrong.” As Christians, surely we can be humble enough to do that, can’t we? Isn’t that the only way to present Christ well? That, however, riled up some on the side of defending Duggars. Suddenly I was accused of losing all ‘grace’.
My question is, can we not walk in grace–with consequences–and acknowledge that things were not exactly as they appeared? I hope so. Where do truth and mercy meet, if not in our humanity? Where does righteousness kiss peace, if not in our lives? And when does truth ‘springing up from the earth’ ever meet with anything other than righteousness, when all truth is of God? I am convinced, beyond even a hint of doubt, that offering grace (not apart from consequences) in the reality of it all, brings healing and hope… When truth and mercy meet.
Having positioned myself between the two sides–feeling no need to destroy or defend, yet supporting consequences–I found a small group of people who acknowledge the crime, support consequences, yet walk in grace. These people feel no need to defend the ‘dark side’ of the situation. They feel no need to downplay the crime. And they felt no need to attack anyone. Having acknowledged that Josh committed a crime, they support consequences with grace, and pray for healing. Most intriguing is the fact that many of these individuals were sexual abuse victims who chose a path of ‘forgiveness with boundaries’, and consequences. Some, in fact, completely removed the abuser from their lives and are labeled ‘unforgiving’ by family or church. Even with deep personal wounds, they value grace. When it is obvious to me that they do not overlook crimes, and yet want to find a path of grace and forgiveness, their words have credibility. These people have a voice… a quiet one… but a voice that carries authority.
We scream, ’empower the victims’… ‘give back their voices’… and yet, when some speak out, they are attacked for not saying the ‘right things’. All victims will not agree. Some will want Josh Duggar hanged. Go ahead and say it. Some of us will cry out for something different; let us speak it too. Of all direct messages, comments and emails I received, where victims identified themselves as victims, the vast majority expressed thanks for acknowledging the crime, and yet extending grace. For some of us that is healing. Let us heal with grace and forgiveness for our offenders. If you need to arrange a pretend execution for your release, feel free to do so. Both sides have the privilege of being true to ourselves. And in the case at hand, the victims deserve that right too, to have their voices.
I pray we learn from this–individuals/churches/government–and live with purpose the life we’ve been given, protecting victims and promoting positive change going forward.
COMING UP: “Mandatory Reporting Laws” & Confidentiality of Juvenile records in various states and provinces.. You may be surprised what they are… I was!
Ultimately, world changers take every situation, and advocate for change where it is needed. For some it may mean encouraging states and provinces to take a good look at the laws, or the lack thereof. There are gaping holes to be filled.
Weighing in on the Duggar story is something I was not going to do. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is my decision in past public hype, to stay out of it. I tire quickly of it. And the whole thing, in most cases, is media driven poison that is detrimental to healing and hope. Therefore it doesn’t interest me, because healing and hope are my mission.
I work with abuse victims and I am an abuse victim, well, an overcomer now, but I was victimized many times. And I, like many of my clients, was violated by family members. I also have very close friends who were sexually molested by family members. And we do not all agree with bold statements being made on our behalf, about how victims feel with Josh Duggar. That’s actually the thing that tipped me ‘over the edge’ into writing about it, a bold statement on behalf of victims. And I, as a victim, do not support much of what I read and I’m hoping I can offer some hope and healing. Besides, I needed to sleep tonight, and writing is how I usually ‘clear my chest’.
Having been victimized and now working with victims, I occasionally end up in front of offenders when I support a victim who is confronting their abuser or alleged abuser, and I serve as mediator. Other times I work with the offenders who seek help for the crimes committed. (If victims are under 16, I report. If not, the voice has to be theirs, and they decide if they wish to report or not.) Sometimes my gizzard gets all in a tangle about the offender–whether a family member of the victim or not–even the ‘very young’ one, because there is an arrogant and unrepentant heart, usually exposed by denial and excuses. And sometimes they are ‘repentant’ when confronted, and then spend the rest of their lives finding ways to bully and blame the victim. These are dangerous offenders. There is nothing of their behaviour that makes me believe they wouldn’t offend again, and I’m all for dealing accordingly.
There are times, however, when the offender is repentant and humble, and their behaviours support repentance. They are broken, and make no excuses, wanting only for their victims to find help. I’ve worked with both, and the latter evoke something very different in my heart and spirit than the former.
In both cases there are consequences for both the victim and the offender. In both cases there are wounds and scars, guilt and shame, and always, always brokenness. Molestation is always damaging. That is the harsh reality of it, no matter the situation, the repentance, the brokenness. I do not downplay that.
However, that does not always mean that a family should be ripped apart and the victim and offender be kept apart for life. I do not believe in pushing the ‘forgive, forget and move on’ agenda to provide a quick cover up and push the consequence on the victim that way and make it the victim’s problem to ‘let it go’. That is wicked beyond wicked, and often does even more damage than the initial abuse, from what victims tell me. But I do believe in ‘forgiveness with boundaries’. I do believe that the offender should not be alone with the victim or other vulnerable (younger) children. It is on the part of wisdom to protect the children, and ensure there are no questionable or risky situations. That’s not genius; it’s the most basic of common sense. Unfortunately still missed by many.
Where the Duggar case goes south for me in a hurry, is the vehement judgement from people everywhere, considering that Josh has made no excuses for his sins and crimes. I was molested by a fifteen year old, and I have no desire to see him dragged through the legal system for what he did to me than I have to see Josh dragged through. My offender apologized and owned it. Unfortunately he did much worse to others over the same time, and refuses to this day to take ownership for those crimes, therefore I do not trust him at all. If those victims decided to take him to court, I’d be there to support them. I never trust an offender who does not own the wickedness of his/her crimes against another, and finds ways to put the crimes on the victim. That is deserving of punishment and legal justice.
I am not a ‘Duggar fan’. I’ve not watched them, even once, or followed their story. I do not care if their show ever airs again or not, on a personal level. It’s simply never interested me. But I do care about truth and justice, and justice and mercy, and I do have a problem with the media attacking Josh and the Duggars and the general public chiming in with no apparent compassion. And the reason for my feelings are multifaceted: 1. Josh was a minor. 2. Jesus changes lives. 3. Victims should have some input, or they simply become victimized again, and their voices are taken away… again. (And it makes me cross, to be honest, to see some of what is being said about ‘victims’ out there and how molestation destroys us for life. Also not true. I am not destroyed; I am empowered. So, if you’re not one, don’t decide for us. If you are one, decide for yourself.)
What Josh did was very wrong. He ‘owned’ that. He has made no excuses, that I’ve seen or heard. He has not blamed his victims. And he was a minor. Fourteen, my friends. Fourteen… That is incredibly young! In my home right now I have a thirteen year old, and he is very young. He has the advantage of talking openly with me and daddy about sex, but even so, he is very young.
Even where I was victimized, there is no way anyone will convince me that the fifteen year old who violated me fully understood, or understood at all, the consequences of his actions. I’m sure he knew what he did was wrong, but understanding what it was he did to me… not possible. So I forgive him, with boundaries.
When I see Christians throwing their rocks at Josh, it troubles me. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died for all my sins. I believe that He transforms lives, and that people change. Even those who molested. If Jesus cannot do that, then He is neither God, nor the Messiah. Then Christianity is a farce. Either He can save and restore all, or He can save and restore none. There is no middle ground.
The popular belief of ‘once a molester, always molester’ is a tragic life sentence to put on anyone, and a slap in the face of God/Jesus. And I do not support it. I never have, and I never will. Admittedly I feel most hope for those who come forward on their own with their sins, repent, and ask for help. I also feel hope for those who are caught at a young age and are forced to get help. They have the advantage of not establishing life patterns. And the manipulative, lying ones… they’re not repentant or looking for change; I am not speaking of them.
But the notion that they are all molesters for life is not truth. I doubt we can begin to grasp the impact that kind of teaching has on people. So I will look every young offender in the eye, if they are repentant, and tell them I believe in them. I want them to believe in themselves. I want them to believe they can overcome and are not sentenced to a life of crime. I want them to set a higher standard for themselves. And I want them to look to God, through Jesus, for that strength. I want them to understand consequences and comply with the laws of the land, because it is scriptural, but I want them to know they can be free, that they never have to do it again. So, yes, I am willing to swim upstream and speak against the tide of judgement, condemnation and hopelessness. Because I believe in God, and what He can do.
If I understand right, Duggars removed Josh from the home for a while. No doubt they were reeling in shock, uncertain what to do. They should have reported right away, true. And, yes, it took them a year, but Mr. Duggar turned his own son in for his crimes. That is unheard of. I work with sexual abuse almost daily. Even on weekends I get messages and emails. Never, in my five years of working closely with sexual abuse–or my twenty-five years of speaking openly about it and listening to stories–have I heard of a father turning in his own son. And as a young teen. Not until now. (Note and addition: In this paragraph, in particular I had some inaccurate information. I have addressed these things in a follow up Blog: “The Duggars; a Few Things… And a Secret of My Own” I have posted the link again, below.)
And if I think back fifteen years to when this happened, the topic was not open like it is today, which makes that reality doubly shocking. In many ways they acted ahead of their time, and from what I can find and read, seem to have done all that they knew to do, and more than most would have done. For that reason, along with what seems a humble and repentant heart in Josh, not to mention my faith in Jesus Christ, I cannot and will not join the crucifixion march. I am appalled at what I see and hear from Christians on this matter and I cannot help but wonder what we have done with Jesus, and what He would do with this situation. He looks very differently on the repentant heart that is open about sins than the hidden thing. (And if you’re going to cry ‘but they hid it’, let me remind you that they went to the police, and he was a minor protected by law from public exposure, if I understand correctly.)
I write this as someone who struggled through the confusion and aftermath of having a teenage boy rub himself all up against me, groping me, grabbing me and doing things to my body I never wanted done. Please don’t decide for those of us who were victimized, how we should heal and that all those who offended us at a young age should be marked for life. Some of us want them to get help and go on and live whole lives, if they are repentant. And please don’t tell me my Jesus isn’t big enough. I won’t buy into that lie. And I hope Josh doesn’t either.
And, for the sake of those who hold the hammer and nails for his crucifixion march, let me repeat, I do not believe in cheap forgiveness. I believe in forgiveness with healthy boundaries and protection, and for the victims to be empowered to heal. And I believe victims should not be forced to have a close relationship with their offenders, even if they are family members, and if the scars are so deep that psychological trauma results from being near the offenders, they should have the liberty to keep a safe distance. But all of us do not want that.
I will end with this; I am healed and whole. And as a healed and whole adult, I have a very healthy and mutually respectful relationship with several of the individuals who touched me inappropriately as young teens. I have forgiven all other offenders as well, but I do not feel safe around them, because they did not take ownership of their crimes, and I have no desire for a relationship. With my father I kept safe boundaries for myself and our children, even after he asked me to forgive him. It was my responsibility to do that, and take care of my family; those are consequences. He was my father, and should have protected me. As a father, and as an adult, he violated that trust. Still, I sat by his hospital bed in the last two years of his life, held his hands, and cried with him and told him I loved him. It was healing for both of us, and set me more free than I’ve ever been, and it gave back my voice (or ‘power’, as some say it).
So please don’t sentence teenagers to a life of crime with thoughtless judgement. If ever he offends as an adult, I’ll offer no defense. I’ll still not let you borrow my hammer and nails, but I will understand the outcry. Until then, I will thank God for His grace in my life, and do my best to extend it to others.
And please don’t rob us, as victims, of that deepest healing, where we reclaim our voice by offering forgiveness in a way that gives life to our spirits. I know most, if not all of my clients would echo this. I’ve not had many (if any) who did not want to extend forgiveness with boundaries they were comfortable with. And I’ve not had any clients who, when I finished working with them, were not healed, whole and confident adults who reclaimed their voices, yet offered forgiveness. That freedom is what Jesus came to offer, so I will boldly declare it, even if it means swimming up stream… alone… through a crowd.
Ps. For those who read how a teen rubbed himself against me and groped me, and presume I have no concept of ‘real’ victimization, I refer to that isolated case here b/c of the age comparison. Two things: that *is* real victimization, and I went through a lot more ‘hell’ than all that. In my book Between 2 Gods; a Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community I tell of repeated molestation and later being raped in my teens. I understand abuse. And my first ‘passion’ is *always* compassion and care for victims. There is never excuse for molestation.
July 9 – 12 Pennsylvania:
I plan to be in Lancaster Pennsylvania, July 9 – 12. To receive updates on where I will be speaking, join our email list by sending your name and email address via my “Contact Trudy” page. I would love to meet you if you’re in the area!
I met him on a comment thread, just the other day, when my friend Boz Tchividjian posted an interview on his blog. In it I share a bit about our home and upbringing, and answer a few questions about the book I released earlier in March.
His name is Tom. I’ve not met Tom in real life, as far as I know–at least he has not identified himself–but he began a line of questioning on just how I came about remembering my childhood, after years of pushing down those harsh realities. He was gentle and polite, so I engaged. (I found him quite delightful, actually. So this blog isn’t really about him… but he’s the one who took me down that road) At length, he identified his concerns regarding Memory Recall Therapy, and found it hard to believe I didn’t use these methods to try to recall things in my past.
I’ve heard that hypnosis is one method used, but I’m not curious enough to bother myself about learning just what that entails or what the other methods are, as I have long made it clear that I do not support trying to remember things. I am very supportive of confronting abusers (or alleged abusers, as the case may be) when memories return on their own, but to force them, I am not in favour of, nor have I ever engaged in such activity. And the reason I don’t want to understand it, is because it is useless information at this time.
I’ve read up on Rapid Eye Movement Therapy, because I’ve had clients going through this either overlapping with my coaching sessions, or before them. When it impacts a client, I am interested, or if it is information that is useful to me in what I do. (For this reason I have done a fair bit of reading PTSD, Bipolar, and various other disorders, as well as self-harm, sexual sadism, violent sexual self-harm etc, masturbation, addictions and the psychology behind them–because these are things I’ve worked with, in clients.) But to study other ‘strange’ or questionable treatments and therapies, when I have no intention of using them, is as helpful as studying accounting and business to learn how to play a violin. Poor time and resource investment.
This stranger, Tom, did leave me with one article to read, in his final comments, and the article frustrated the life out of me. It brought to memory another article I read a year or so ago, regarding the use of hypnosis for the purpose of remembering past events, but I cannot find that article, or recall it. What I recall is that I skimmed it, and agreed with the author (some PHD, and in the Britain Journal of Medicine, if I recall accurately) that it was hokus pokus, though I’d go further and say it is spiritually dangerous. Not being able to locate that article is only a small part of my frustration.
In the article from Tom, found here, these questionable recall methods are tackled and ‘debunked’. On this, I agree with the article, 100%. (When I’ve been asked if it’s a good idea, my answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ I feel strongly about it!)
In this same article the term “The body remembers even if the mind cannot” is also addressed, referring to ‘body memories’. I know little about this, but use a similar statement in my book, when referring to my damaged right wrist that required therapy in my twenties, a wrist that was wounded when my father struck me, as a young toddler. It is a story mom and siblings recounted to me, of my wrist hanging limply after being struck violently. Beyond that, ‘body memories’ are not something I am very familiar with.
What frustrates me most in this article is that all ‘returned memories’ seem to be called ‘recovered’, and the baby seems to have got dumped with the bath water. That this topic is studied ‘at a distance’ and disqualified as illegitimate, when the hands on reality proves otherwise–when done *apart* from memory recall therapy–seems careless. And I would take on any psychologist, psychiatrist or other ‘ist’ in this area–no matter how ‘educated’–and let them ‘experience’ the truth with me. (Yes, that’s an invitation! It isn’t arrogant; it’s confidence in what I see, over and over again.) Work alongside of me for a while, make it a study, and I promise it will be proven that people block memories, and those memories are easily validated, usually by the pepetrator. And there will be no memory recall therapy used.
Several years ago I had a client (who gave me permission to share parts of her story) with recurring nightmares, always of a real time, real place with real people, involving trauma. Having heard the nightmare a few times I asked if they had ever talked to the ‘real live’ people in that nightmare and asked if they know of anything that happened in that particular room. (I discouraged telling what was in the nightmare, to avoid creating the ‘memory’ for the other person.) Having contacted one, my client contacted me, shocked; the individual confirmed the event. Ironically, when it came out there were other victims. (Surprise, surprise.) And, coincidentally, having dealt with it, my client suddenly started to heal, and did a radical U-turn.
More recently, I worked with a client who (first of all, also gave me permission to write) and ‘recalled’ memories, on her own, out of the blue, that she had blocked for years. False memories? Think again! We met with the man who molested her, and took not one, not two, not three but four witnesses to confront him. (One was a couple from his church, one was the husband of the victim, the other was my husband.)
I started the meeting with, “Do you know why we’re here?”
He said he knew, but immediately added, “but it wasn’t sexual.”
“Uh.. yes it was,” I said. He argued again. A few ’rounds’ of this and I knew we were headed no where fast. And then it occurred to me…
“In that case,” I said, looking around the room at the three gentlemen present, ” you wouldn’t object to each of these men doing to your wife, right now, what you did to that girl?” His wife sat beside him, vulnerable.
“Okay.. it was sexual. It was sexual,” he said, and broke down weeping.
That established, we moved forward with his apology, and him addressing the victim’s husband, asking him to apologize to her, on his behalf. While there is much more to write about that story, it isn’t relevant to today’s blog, so I will leave it.
According to that article, my client’s memories would be casually tossed aside as being ‘not valid’ because she had blocked them for many years. And yet, the confrontation confirmed them. My frustration, then, is that the ‘professionals’ who do this–and many don’t–are potentially contributing to the mental deterioration of these clients that could otherwise heal.
To have my own memories challenged is one thing. There’s sixteen siblings in my family, and we all have similar hellish memories, so no one needs to convince me, or them. We know the truth and stand by it, every one of us–though obviously our experiences vary. As does my mother. And, heck, even my dad owned up to his wickedness, so not a lot of affirmation needed, on my part. But to carelessly disregard an individual’s memories, in every case, is tragic and ends with the victim being violated all over again. Not only are we saying the abuse is irrelevant, now we’re saying they’re crazy on top of what they already suffered. (And I say ‘carelessly’ because there are ‘false memories’ that have also been proven, and people with mental illness live, at times, in some alternate reality that they have created. I have known such people, and it isn’t fun to watch, but to use a blanket statement to negate all memories that come back over time, is foolishness.)
Even in my book, where I mention the older teens who use a group of my siblings, the scene has been corroborated. One of the teens–I discovered a few weeks ago–apologized to one of the victims. And yet that memory didn’t resurface, more than the time or two I mention in my book, until my thirties, then disappeared again until January 2012, when I finally had to deal with the reality of it.
This article, for that reason, has little credibility based on my experience, regardless the letters behind the name, because I have too much proof that it is not accurate. I will stand by the truth that I know, and continue to help victims of abuse heal, mediate with confrontation, and offer life and hope in the process.
And my encouragement to you is, if you know your memories are real, don’t let anyone push you back into the darkness. Forgive the abuser, but don’t be afraid to establish healthy boundaries. Invite Jesus into the pain, to heal your broken heart and spirit. And, having done so, move on to embrace a life of purpose.
I find myself now, in a dark woods. Having wandered deep enough to be caught at nightfall, unable to see the path clearly. The stillness more frightening than the foreboding growls and the threat of creatures unknown to me. The creatures warn me, the stillness does not.
I want to turn, to run back from where I have come and never look into the woods again. Never to see again, or even remember what I have seen here. If only I could tell you, you wouldn’t believe it. The stories, whispered here, by the dying, the wounded, the lost. But I cannot tell, for they are not my stories to share, save a few who have asked me to speak on their behalf. But I cannot tell them now, it is not yet time.
It was beautiful when I set out into the woods, the flowers at the edge of the woods. The path clear and predictable. Birds chirping cheerfully, as if to encourage me. Furry little creatures, darting about, as if daring me to follow. How naively I wandered deeper.
I cannot say that I was truly naive. For I had heard of the tragedy that had befallen many in the woods. I, myself, had lived there, years ago, one of the fallen. Dying. But I had not seen the others then. Not most of them. Because I was so wounded.I could not comprehend the pain around me, or discern their cries. I could not see, so wounded that my sight was dim.
And then they rescued me. The strangers who heard of my fate and wandered into the woods, offering to carry me out, to dress my wounds, to feed me. Slowly my health was restored.
Then the memory of the cries around me, deep in the woods, returned to haunt me, begging me to return into the woods. A dream was born. I made a vow. I would return. Like those brave enough to rescue me, I would go back into the woods….
I imagined how brave I would be. How many wounded I would find in the woods, and how I would carry them out, one by one, fighting off demons, and monsters, and dragons. Fearlessly. At least so I would tell myself. Inside, where no one could see but me and God, the fear would be there. But that fear would be my driving force, to keep me going, fighting, bringing salvation to the wounded. On the surface I would be brave, and strong…. That is what others would see….
As the night gets darker, the fear is no longer in my heart, hidden. Now it is bold. I feel it, choking me. Threatening to make me freeze. Stealing my strength, causing me to drop the wounded, without even the strength to stand.
It is not the demons and monsters that frighten me so, that make me want to run. No, it is the familiar faces. It is those I see, and recognize, in the woods who stand there, beside the wounded, covering their eyes, as they pray. As they pray for themselves and their own ambitions. Closing their eyes so they cannot see those wounded, and bleeding out on the ground. The blood so near them, it is on their feet, their hands. Praying so loud that they cannot hear the weeping, the cries, the final gasps as the wounded draw their last breath. The blood drips from their hands as they cover their eyes. Still they pray.
The demons and the monsters and the dragons, these I was prepared for. I was ready to slay them, to command them to leave, to chase them. To do whatever I had to do. But now I am in shock. Not shocked that these familiar faces exist. I expected a few. I planned to work around them, to even win them over and encourage them to help.
But nothing could have prepared me for the vast numbers of them, except for experience. And experience is a cruel teacher. A heartless lecturer, forcing one to sit and listen, to contemplate things one might never have known, without experience.
No, I did not come prepared to have them stand there, watching me drag body, after body–if they dared to stop their praying and open their eyes long enough to see–while they stood there silently, or worse, stepped into my path.
This is what is most frightening in the dark. Because I do not know if they caused the wounds, if they would hesitate to slay me. Or if they too, like me, merely wandered into the woods with good intentions, and were seized by fear that consumed their will to fight.
But I have taken a vow, and I cannot break it. I will keep my sword at my left side, carry the wounded on my left shoulder. My right hand is free, always, to reach out to God. It is free to lend a hand to those I meet. It is free to rest on my heart and remember to Whom I have vowed my allegiance. It is free to take hold of that sword, when I need it, and fight for freedom.
I have taken a vow, and I will keep it.
My sword is the truth. My vow is to stand by it, and be faithful to it. For Truth cannot fall. It prevails. Always. And with that vow comes strength, courage and hope.
The woods are darker now. And lonely.
It is a long dark night ahead. But morning will come again, and with it, victory.